Isabel Lewis (born in Santo Domingo, 1981) is a Dominican-American artist raised on a man-made island in Southwest Florida. Before relocating to Berlin in 2009 she lived in New York City where she danced for many choreographers and showed her own commissioned works for the stage at Dance Theater Workshop, PS122, and The Kitchen. She also participated in several artist-run initiatives in NYC such as AUNTS, ClassClassClass, Bruce High Quality Foundation, and Movement Research at Judson Church.
Lewis is active in the fields of theatre, music, and dance and is particularly recognised for introducing the format of the “occasion” to the field of Contemporary Art with her presentations of An Occasion hosted by Isabel Lewis at the Biennial of Moving Images at Centre d'Art Contemporain Genève followed by Frieze Art Fair London in 2014. Through persistent experimentation and embodied research methodologies Lewis creates formats for alternative modes of sociality between human and more-than-human agents. For Lewis any given format suggests ways of ordering the sensible and so how to engage with format is a deeply political question. “Occurrences”, “arrangements”, “activations” “expanded viewings”, “sensory parcours” as well as workshops, listening sessions and lecture performances are to be found in the history of the artist’s work. Trained in literary criticism and philosophy and with her artistic roots in dance, Lewis employs an expanded sense of the choreographic that centres its focus around generating affective bodily experiences that address all of the senses in her inherently collaborative practice which includes architects such as Juan Chacón of Zuloark, scientists such as Sissel Tolaas, and theorists such as classicist Brooke Holmes among other practitioners.
Lewis has created works around such topics such as open-source technology and dance improvisation (Communal EPIC Fiction, 2010), dances as cultural storage systems (Mountain Grass, Mountain Hare: bodily imprinting and social dances, 2012), future bodily techniques (BALLISTIC BODY, 2011), rapping as an embodied speech act (FLOW PLAY: Sensualized Speech and HipHop, 2013), and the sociological concept of erotic sociability (Unambitious Stripper, 2017-ongoing). Lewis’s work has been presented by Dia Art Foundation, Tate Modern, Kunsthalle Basel, Liverpool Biennial, Serpentine Galleries, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Tanz Im August, Kampnagel, Gropius Bau, Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, Palais de Tokyo, Ming Contemporary Art Museum, Sharjah Biennial, Karachi Biennial Trust, and Kunsthalle Zürich among others. In 2021 she started a long-term collaboration with the TBA21-Academy with a first work combining artistic and scientific research on the topic of ocean at Ocean Space in Venice entitled O.C.E.A.N.I.C.A. (Occasions Creating Ecologically Attuned Narratives in Collective Action). In the same year she served as co-curator of the year-long program Existing Otherwise at Galerie Wedding in Berlin.